Northern Ireland: 160 loyalist fires to light
MORE than 160 loyalist bonfires will be lit across Northern Ireland as the country’s vice-president called for calm amid mounting tensions.
Michelle O’Neill pleaded after a Loyalist bonfire was placed near an interface area, adjacent to Loyalist and Nationalist quarters, in Belfast.
O’Neill of Sinn Fein said the location of the bonfire on Adam Street in Tiger’s Bay in the north of the city had led residents of the neighboring Nationalist Quarter of New Lodge to live “under siege.”
Two Stormont ministers, Nichola Mallon of the SDLP and Deirdre Hargey of Sinn Fein, have sued the Northern Ireland Police Service (PSNI) over its decision not to intervene at the bonfire.
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Police have refused to offer protection to moving companies, fearing their intervention could lead to disorder.
The ministers’ attempt to force the police to act failed in emergency High Court proceedings on Friday.
The bonfire is now to be lit tonight (Sunday July 11) as part of the traditional “Eleventh Night” events leading up to the July 12 parades. These will take place on Monday at 100 locations across Northern Ireland.
O’Neill told the BBC’s Sunday Politics that the two ministers were “absolutely right” to challenge the police in court.
She said: “It’s disappointing to see the outcome of the court ruling, but I think it was absolutely the right thing to do.
“Bonfires are illegal, they are bad for the environment and they encroached on government land, so ministers have a duty to uphold the law.
“Everyone has the right to celebrate their culture, but this bonfire is on an interface zone; that draws all the increased tension. I have met the locals and they feel under siege, their homes have been attacked and this is not acceptable these days.
“Putting a bonfire on an interface area begs the question, is it only to annoy? ”
By the time a bonfire collapsed in Portadown, Co Armagh last night 😱 pic.twitter.com/5K8yjzMZ03
– Patricia Devlin (@trishdevlin) July 10, 2021
Responding to information from the Sunday Times that a loyalist paramilitary group, the UDA, had brought weapons into the area, O’Neill said: Are these areas being attacked?
MP FM said all political leaders must work to ensure tensions do not spill over in the coming days.
She said: “I hope it’s a peaceful weekend, I hope it’s a calm weekend. All of us political leaders have a duty to try to make this happen.
“I would like to call everyone, enjoy your celebrations, do what you do to enjoy your culture, but there is no place to attack people’s homes. I just hope we have a weekend without watching the scenes we witnessed a few weeks ago when we saw tensions in the interface areas, neither of us want to see that.
“My message is clear, stay home, don’t get involved in the street unrest, that’s not where everyone should be.”
Unionist political representatives in north Belfast have said the Tiger’s Bay bonfire is a legitimate expression of their culture and accused nationalist politicians of increasing tensions in the region.
It comes as more than 160 pyres are set to be lit to usher in the main date of the parade season of faithful Protestant orders – July 12.
As July 11 falls on a Sunday this year, a number of bonfires have already been lit on Friday and Saturday evenings.
Fire service devices were present as a huge fire in the Corcrain neighborhood of Portadown was started on Saturday night. Firefighters worked to depreciate neighboring properties.
Last year’s parades were canceled due to the Covid-19 pandemic and restrictions on public gatherings.
The Orange Order said this summer’s parades will be smaller than usual and locally based, with the normal 18 main events being replaced by more than 100 local parades.
The Order said holding smaller parades was the best way to ensure protests continue.
The twelfth parade marks the victory of Protestant King William of Orange over Catholic King James II in the Battle of the Boyne, north of Dublin, in 1690 – a triumph that secured a Protestant line of succession to the British crown.